Ana Navas-Acien

Ana Navas-Acien

Ana Navas-Acien

Investigating the role of the environment in chronic disease to improve population health
Environmental Health Sciences
Director, Columbia University Superfund Research Program


722 West 168th Street, Office 1105
New York NY USA 10032
Website address: Email: Twitter: CV:


Ana Navas-Acien is a physician-epidemiologist (MD, University of Granada, Spain '96) with a specialty in Preventive Medicine and Public Health (Hospital La Paz, Madrid '01) and a PhD in Epidemiology (Johns Hopkins University '05). Her research investigates the long-term health effects of environmental exposures (arsenic and other metals, tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes, air pollution), their interactions with genetic and epigenetic variants, and effective interventions for reducing involuntary exposures. She collaborates with major cohort studies such as the Strong Heart Study, a study of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors in American Indian communities, and the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), a study of cardiovascular, metabolic and lung disease in urban settings across the US. Both in the US and internationally, she evaluates exposure to tobacco smoke including emerging public health challenges such as waterpipe smoking and e-cigarettes. Her goals are to contribute to the reduction of environmental health disparities in underserved and disproportionately exposed populations.



MD, 1996, University of Granada
MPH, 1998, National School of Health
PhD, 2005, Johns Hopkins University

Mailman Affiliations

Member, Columbia Center for Environmental Health in Northern Manhattan

Editorial Boards

Editor-in-Chief, Current Environmental Health Reports
Associate Editor, Environmental Health Perspectives
Associate Editor, Environmental Research

Columbia Affiliations

Other Affiliations

Honors & Awards

Dean's Excellence in Mentoring Award at Mailman School of Public Health
Johns Hopkins Advising, Mentoring and Teaching Recognition Award (AMTRA), 2009, 2014
Delta Omega Honor Society, Alpha Chapter, 2010
Phi Beta Kappa, 2005
Fulbright Scholar, 2001-2003

Areas of Expertise

Aging and Elderly, Clinical Trials, Intervention Studies, Longitudinal Studies, Survival Analysis, Cancer, Cardiovascular Disease, Chronic Disease, Diabetes, Disparities / Inequalities in Health, Pollution--Air/Ground/Water, Arsenic Exposure, Environmental Epidemiology, Lead Exposure, Molecular Epidemiology, Toxicity of Heavy Metals, Water Quality and Access, Obesity, Epigenetics, Gene-Environment Interactions, Genetic Susceptibility, Smoking (Tobacco)

Select Urban Health Activities

Chronic Health Effects of Arsenic and Other Metals in the Strong Heart Study: Native communities bear a disproportionate share of risk from environmental exposures. The Strong Heart Study (SHS) is an ongoing population-based cohort study of American Indian (AI) adults and their family members that emphasizes environmental health. Working in partnership with the SHS investigators and communities, we found that arsenic and cadmium exposures were related to increased cardiovascular disease (CVD) incidence and mortality, type 2 diabetes, and/or cancer mortality. Research is needed to understand mechanistic pathways and to identify effective interventions to eliminate environmental health disparities.
Gene-Environment Interactions and Environmental Epigenetics: We investigate the interaction of genetic markers in the development of chronic diseases with arsenic exposure and arsenic metabolism in American Indian communities. We are also evaluating the role of epigenetic modifications, in particular DNA methylation, as potential mediators of the health effects of metals. Our goal is to identify population-groups that are most susceptible to the health effects of arsenic and other environmental exposures.
Metals in the Trial to Assess Chelation Therapy 2 (TACT2M): The main objectives of TACT2M is to evaluate whether long-term chelation can reduce metal levels and to determine whether this reduction can explain the beneficial effect of chelation in cardiovascular disease. We selected lead and cadmium as key metals due to their widespread exposure and long-term accumulation in the body, and the solid epidemiological and mechanistic evidence supporting their role in cardiovascular disease development and progression.

Select Global Activities

SHELT (Secondhand Smoke Exposure and Legislation in Turkey): We use a mixed-method approach in 12 cities, including observations (indoors and outdoors), particulate matter (PM2.5) assessment, and surveys with key informants to comprehensively evaluate compliance with the smoke-free law in Turkey. We aim to characterize and understand challenges in the implementation of the law. We work in partnership with Turkish investigators and are actively engaged in dissemination activities with the ultimate goal of protecting the population from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Waterpipe studies: Waterpipe cafes and waterpipe tobacco smoking (also called hookah, nargile, shisha) have been growing in popularity worldwide, particularly with young adults. We have conducted cross-sectional surveys of water pipe venues and their employees in Istanbul, Turkey, Moscow, Russia, and Cairo, Egypt to assess secondhand smoke exposure in these venues by measuring both environmental markers and biomarkers. Our study informs on waterpipe-related toxicant concentrations in real world settings and support policy interventions aiming to protect workers and customers from exposure to secondhand smoke.
Drinking water interventions: Effective interventions are urgently needed to mitigate arsenic exposure in families and communities relying on private wells for drinking water. The Strong Heart Study communities, especially in areas of North and South Dakota, face many difficulties to be connected to community drinking water systems. Through substantial community engagement, we are developing an intervention to evaluate the effectiveness of a multi-level participatory intervention to prevent arsenic exposure in rural communities.

Select Publications

Urine arsenic concentrations and species excretion patterns in American Indian communities over a 10-year period - The Strong Heart Study. Navas-Acien A, Jason G Umans, Barbara V Howard, Walter Goessler, Kevin A Francesconi, Ciprian M Crainiceanu, Ellen K Silbergeld, Eliseo Guallar. Environ Health Perspect. 2009;117:1428-1433. PMID: 19750109.
Association of global DNA methylation and global DNA hydroxymethylation with metals and other exposures in human blood DNA samples. Tellez-Plaza M, Tang WY, Shang Y, Umans JG, Francesconi KA, Goessler W, Pollak J, Guallar E, Cole S, Fallin MD, Navas-Acien A. Environ Health Perspect. 2014;122:946-954. PMID: 24769358.
Association between low to moderate arsenic exposure and incident cardiovascular disease. A prospective cohort study. Moon KA, Guallar E, Umans JG, Devereux RB, Best L, Francesconi KA, Goessler W, Pollak J, Silbergeld EK, Howard BV, Navas-Acien A. Annals Intern Med 2013;159:649-59. PMID:24061511.
Arsenic exposure, arsenic metabolism, and incident diabetes in the Strong Heart Study. Kuo CC, Howard BV, Umans JG, Gribble MO, Best L, Francesconi KA, Goessler W, Lee E, Guallar E, Navas-Acien A. Diabetes Care 2015;38:620-7. PMID: 25583752
Association of Cardiometabolic Genes with Arsenic Metabolism Biomarkers in American Indian Communities: The Strong Heart Family Study (SHFS). Balakrishnan P, Vaidya D, Franceschini N, Voruganti VS, Gribble MO, Haack K, Laston S, Umans JG, Francesconi KA, Goessler W, North KE, Lee E, Yracheta J, Best LG, MacCluer JW, Kent J Jr, Cole SA, Navas-Acien A. Environ Health Perspect. 2016 Jun 28. PMID: 27352405.
Heavy Metals, Cardiovascular Disease, and the Unexpected Benefits of Chelation Therapy. Lamas GA, Navas-Acien A, Mark DB, Lee KL. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2016;67:2411-8. PMID: 27199065.
A direct method for e-cigarette aerosol sample collection. Olmedo P, Navas-Acien A, Hess C, Jarmul S, Rule A. Environ Res. 2016;149:151-6. PMID: 27200479.
Metal mixtures in urban and rural populations in the US: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis and the Strong Heart Study. Pang Y, Peng RD, Jones MR, Francesconi KA, Goessler W, Howard BV, Umans JG, Best LG, Guallar E, Post WS, Kaufman JD, Vaidya D, Navas-Acien A. Environ Res. 2016;147:356-64. PMID: 26923218.
Compliance with smoke-free legislation within public buildings: a cross-sectional study in Turkey. Navas-Acien A, Carkoglu A, Ergor G, Hayran M, Erguder T, Kaplan B, Susan J, Magid H, Pollak J, Cohen JE. Bull World Health Organ. 2016;94:92-102. PMID: 26908959.

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